Josh Reaves’ Penn State career has revolved around comeback stories.
Penn State men’s basketball’s marquee guard expected to enter his sophomore season on much stronger footing. Slowly working his way to being a key starter during his freshman season, Reaves missed six games in January dealing with mononucleosis. The aftereffects of the illness plagued the rest of his first year and forced him to reestablish himself as a leader on this squad.
The offseason put Reaves back on track; on a mission to become bigger, faster, and stronger, Reaves spent his summer in the gym, and it paid dividends by the time fall practice opened for the Nittany Lions. Coach Pat Chambers even went as far as to call Reaves the MVP leading up to the season.
But the stardom role would have to be put on hold for the Virginia native after another setback — a leg injury suffered days before the season opener that forced him to miss the first five games of the season — held him back from being at 100 percent for much of the early portion of the season.
Just as he made it back to form the first time around, Reaves is slowly emerging as the player Chambers always knew he could be. A key fixture in the 14-point comeback win against No. 24 Minnesota, he finally feels like he’s returned to top form.
“I feel good,” Reaves said following the win. “They were just telling me in the locker room I look like I could play another game. I finally got my conditioning all the way back.”
It was a low-scoring matchup in the Bryce Jordan Center with the Nittany Lions prevailing in a 52-50 defensive battle. Reaves has had many more impressive games in the box score, but his impact on the day goes beyond quantitative metrics.
Playing staunch defensively and diving all over the floor — doing much of the team’s dirty work in the process — Reaves was the driving force behind Penn State’s first win over a ranked opponent this season. “Penn State won the basketball game [against Minnesota], but Josh Reaves was 90 percent of it,” Chambers said. “His energy, effort, passion, edge. He was all over the floor. We just have to slow him down a little bit on offense, but he did some great things on the defensive end.”
That’s just the type of player Reaves is.
As a guy who plays with unmeasurable passion, being forced to watch from the sidelines was difficult for him. Now back at the top of his game, Reaves is living to play and reach that extra gear. It’s been a lifelong mission for him to push himself to those levels. “Childhood, I was running around all day, 24/7,” Reaves said. “My mom literally had to strap me down in my bed so I wouldn’t get up and move. I just go, my second gear is really fast, it comes really fast and I don’t try to think about being tired because that’s a mental thing.”
Coming off a number of impressive Big Ten performances since a lackluster home loss to Northwestern, Chambers is happy with his team rounding into shape — admitting that his team probably couldn’t have grabbed wins like that over Michigan State and Minnesota six to eight weeks ago.
A big portion of the turnaround can be attributed to the return of Josh Reaves and the leadership he provides for a team that regularly starts three freshmen.
“He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Chambers said. “He told me he wanted to be, he’s accepted that torch, and now he’s become it. Now, we are going to hold him to a very high standard.”